Monogamy: How Is It Defined?

By: Michael Arangua

Updated May 13, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Kay Adkins, LPC

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Monogamy is officially defined as "a form of relationship in which an individual has only one partner during their lifetime - alternately, only one partner at any one time." In Western society, this type of relationship is quite common. Sometimes, individuals who are in a monogamous relationship decide to carry on affairs or otherwise alternative relationships without their primary partner's knowledge. This can lead to a variety of problems. In most cases, monogamy is regarded as the standard, while non-monogamous relationships are generally condemned or otherwise looked down upon.

Monogamy Explained

To date, there are a variety of debates regarding monogamy. As divorce rates and reports of infidelity surge, many people have questioned whether or not monogamy is as innate as it's often made out to be. However, not everyone shares the preceding viewpoint. Advocates of monogamy maintain that just because someone finds themselves attracted to one who is not their partner does not mean they have to act on their desire. Moreover, people experience plenty of thoughts and feelings that they do not act on for a variety of reasons.

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Despite what many individuals view as the merits of monogamy, this type of relationship is not for everyone. Some people have opted to engage in polyamorous unions or open relationships. Although not everyone agrees with this lifestyle, individuals should not be shamed if they choose to partake in polyamory. However, problems arise when not everyone in a relationship is on the same page.

Some of the central elements of polyamory are consent and agreement. This means that all parties should be equally aware of the nature of the relationship. One person should not expect monogamy while the other individual proceeds to do as they please. This is just cheating. Cheating, or a lack of faithfulness to one's partner, causes many problems. If someone is unsatisfied in a relationship, they should simply exit the union as opposed to stringing their partner along.

Benefits Of Monogamy

Each person has their own opinions and beliefs regarding monogamy and its benefits. Whether or not individuals choose to partake in monogamous relationships is up to them; however, scientific research and studies have proven that monogamy does come with certain upsides.

From a historical and evolutionary standpoint, most of the research has focused on how monogamy may maximize the chances of having surviving offspring.

For current times, there are some studies that indicate that being monogamous may come with some health benefits. The Greatist compiled a some of that research. Some of it included that people in relationships tend to live longer than those who aren’t, have lower rates of depression, higher immunity, better heart health, and may be less likely to get cancer. 

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According to The Huffington Post, upsides to monogamy extend beyond longer lifespans and better health. For starters, individuals who remain faithful to their partners are likelier to enjoy better higher qualities of sex and cuddling as you become more familiar with your partner and more comfortable with yourself. Contrary to somewhat popular belief, sleeping with multiple partners, or partaking in what's commonly referred to as "hook-up culture," does not always breed pleasure and satisfaction. Taking time to truly and instinctively get to know your partner on an intimate level harbors long-term benefits as opposed to sleeping with random people.

Another upside of monogamous relationships is not having to worry about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). When you’re sleeping with a faithful, long-term partner, you know their health status and do not need to worry about bringing a new STD into the relationship.

On the flip side, if you’re sleeping with multiple partners, some of whom may be relative strangers, you may not accurately know their sexual history. The more sexual partners one has, the likelier they have of stumbling upon a disease. The likelihood of STDs increases considerably when one or more sexual partner has already been infected.

Many individuals don't realize that sexually transmitted diseases can sit dormant for months or even years. Someone can have an STD and not be aware; in their lack of awareness, they can pass this disease onto one or more of their sexual partners. A person who maintains a sexual relationship with someone who isn't faithful can easily open themselves up to catching something.

This reason alone should be enough for people to consider the upsides of monogamy. When two loving people remain committed and faithful to one another, there is no stress or worry about contracting any new sexually transmitted diseases.

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Last but not least, on the list of drawbacks comes the danger of settling. Society often tells people that they ought to be in monogamous relationships; they're told that entering into such unions will bring happiness, fulfillment, acceptance, etc. As a result of such messaging, many individuals may feel pressured to enter into relationships that they're not necessarily ready for. Rushing into a partnership with the wrong individual can breed resentment over time and later lead to cheating or other issues.

To make a long story short, each person should take time and truly get to know who they are before rushing into any type of relationship. Some people will do well in monogamous relationships. Other individuals will find that they're better suited for different types of unions. Either scenario is acceptable and should be respected.

A Final Word

In many situations, people will ask themselves whether or not monogamy is good or bad, right or wrong. The truthful answer to these questions is that it simply depends. While monogamy seems to work for many individuals, not everyone will feel fulfilled or satisfied with this type of unions. However, it does go without saying that monogamous people in relationships with other monogamous people may be more compatible and, of course, the same principle applies to polyamorous individuals and those who prefer open relationships. Ultimately, as long as both or all parties are consenting adults, abstaining from judgment and condemnation is the best course of action.

So many people fail to realize that relationships are inherently complicated. There are so many factors that determine whether a union succeeds or fails. These factors are constantly changing, as are people. Every one of us goes through individual, unique experiences that change our worldviews and outlooks. Sometimes we grow with the people we're closest to, and other times, we grow apart. Different individuals who cross our paths at various points in life almost always have something to teach us. Ultimately, the ability to learn and grow from all people, things, and experiences is what truly matters.

Source: pexels.com

Last but not least, on the list of drawbacks comes the danger of settling. Society often tells people that they ought to be in monogamous relationships; they're told that entering into such unions will bring happiness, fulfillment, acceptance, etc. As a result of such messaging, many individuals may feel pressured to enter into relationships which they're not necessarily ready for. Rushing into a partnership with the wrong individual can breed resentment over time and later lead to cheating or other issues.

To make a long story short, each person should take time and truly get to know who they are before rushing into any type of relationship. Some people will do well in monogamous relationships. Other individuals will find that they're better suited for different types of unions. Either scenario is acceptable and should be respected.

A Final Word

In many situations, people will ask themselves whether or not monogamy is good or bad, right or wrong. The truthful answer to these questions is that it simply depends. While monogamy seems to work for many individuals, not everyone will feel fulfilled or satisfied with this type of unions. However, it does go without saying that monogamous people in relationships with other monogamous people may be more compatible and, of course, the same principle applies to polyamorous individuals and those who prefer open relationships. Ultimately, as long as both or all parties are consenting adults, abstaining from judgment and condemnation is the best course of action.

So many people fail to realize that relationship are inherently complicated. There are so many factors which determine whether a union succeeds or fails. These factors are constantly changing, as are people. Every one of us goes through individual, unique experiences which change our worldviews and outlooks. Sometimes we grow with the people we're closest to, and other times, we grow apart. Different individuals who cross our paths at various points in life almost always have something to teach us. Ultimately, the ability to learn and grow from all people, things, and experiences is what truly matters.

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